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2010 Census

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I will have a much longer and detailed post on this in the future, with new projections, but this breaking news (at least as far as it comes with dry demographic statistics) so I can’t refrain from writing a preliminary post on the matter.

For all intents and purposes, Russia’s demographic crisis – the infamous “death spiral” afflicting it for much of the post-Soviet period – is at an end.

Here is a summary of the preliminary data for 2011:

1. The population increased by 189,000. The rate of natural decrease, deaths minus births, is now at a mere 131,000; for comparison, it was consistently within the 700,000 to 1,000,000 range from 1993 to 2006. This was more than balanced by an uptick in net immigration, which rose to 320,000 this year. (This has not stopped the hackish Western media from slobbering on about Russia’s “brain drain” at just the precise moment in time that it finally came to a complete halt).

2. Births continue to rise, with Total Fertility Rates reaching 1.57 in 2010 and 1.60 in 2011. This is marginally higher than the EU average (1.59 in 2009), and similar to Canada (1.67 in 2009) and to Estonia (1.62 in 2009), which was the majority-Christian nation least affected by the demographic crisis after the Soviet collapse. Life expectancy is still dismal by industrialized country standards but is immeasurably better than before, having increased to 70.3 years in 2011. Russians have never lived longer; the previous two peaks were in 1964, at 69.9 years, and in 1986-87, at 70.0 years.

3. The structure of mortality has improved a lot, with fewer Russians dying from external causes (the bulk of which, in its case, are caused by drunkenness). Suicides, homicides, and deaths from alcohol poisoning are all now below the levels of 1990, the last year of Soviet “normality.” They are still far above the levels they should be but I am confident they will continue to improve as the effects of excise taxes and regulations causes alcohol culture to transform into the more reasonable forms seen in the US and Western Europe.

4. Because the immigrant population was previously under-counted, the most recent Census revealed the population to be 142.9 million as opposed to the projected 141.9 million. With the growth this year, it is now at 143.0 million.

4. Let me take the opportunity to remind the reader that I predicted this all. Hardly anyone else did. Back in mid 2008 I wrote: “Russia will see positive population growth starting from 2010 at the latest” (back when all the agencies and Big Name Experts were expecting unrelenting decline). I was 100% correct. The population was already growing by 23,000 in 2009. It did dip by 48,000 in 2010, but this was due to the chaotic effect of the heatwave and an unexpected decline in net immigration; this year, it more than made up the difference by growing for 2010 (and even 2008). My models were if anything too conservative on life expectancy. Even the most optimistic only broke the (unprecedented) 70 years barrier by 2012-13, but as of 2011 it was already at 70.3 as mentioned above.

5. For those smart-ass commentators who are going to talk about the “echo effect” of declining birth rates as women from the diminished 1990′s cohort come of age, please note that:

(A) The purpose of this post is primarily to avail readers of the latest developments, which have barely even been covered by the Russian media let alone the likes of Eberstadt.

(B) This effect is implicitly addressed in my models. I’m not going to argue with you on this until or unless you first read this post (which describes my models) and this discussion.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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It is now increasingly evident that Russia’s population has settled on a small but decidedly firm upwards growth trend. I have been vindicated.

According to the latest data, in the first eight months of the year births fell by 1.4% (12.5/1000 to 12.3/1000) and deaths fell by 6.2% (from 14.6/1000 to 13.7/1000) relative to the same period last year. The rate of natural population decrease eased from -198,3000 to -128,800. The big fall in the death rate is due to two factors: (1) the continuing secular increase in life expectancy, due to decreasing alcohol consumption and more healthcare spending; (2) specific to 2011, the “high base” effect of the mortality spike during the Great Russian Heatwave last year.

This natural decrease was more than compensated for by 200,255 net migrants during the same period, making for a population increase of 71,500 this year to August. This more than cancels out the population decrease of 48,300 for the whole of 2010, and let it be reminded that it rose by 23,300 in 2009. In other words, in stark contrast to the avalanche of doom-mongering articles that continue to be written in the Western press about “dying Russia” – of which two of the most egregious examples are this and this – the reality is that today in net terms Russia’s population is now larger than it was in 2009.

At this point an important methodological point has to be made. This year, Rosstat switched to only accounting for immigrants who “register at the place of residence” in their population updates, as opposed to the previous method of accounting for anyone who enters the country with a permit to stay for a year or more. The former number is much smaller than the latter: whereas there were the aforementioned 200,255 net immigrants by the old method, Rosstat’s registration method only shows 68,822 (with the result that Rosstat says that Russia’s population actually decreased by 60,000 in the first eight months of this year). However, as Sergey Slobodyan (a frequent guest blogger here) noted at the JRL, this was an opaque and rather bizarre switch. For a start, even using the first method in the years before 2011, which gives far more emigrants than the by residency method, Rosstat still under-counted the numbers of migrants in Russia by one million – the 2010 Census showed there to be 142.9 million Russians, as opposed to the 142.0 million estimated by Rosstat on the basis of projections from the 2002 Census. And even on an intuitive level, doesn’t it seem obvious that far from every migrant to Russia will immediately bother (or be able to afford!) registering at a place of residence? Slobodyan speculates that the reason the new methodology was adopted was because of nationalist tensions over immigration levels in the run-up to the upcoming elections, which may have pressed the Kremlin into pressuring Rosstat, at least for the time being, into purposefully under-counting immigrants; hence the unexplained switch in methodology.

Particularly encouraging in the statistics for this year is that “mortality from vices” continues to fall very rapidly – things such as homicides, suicides, poisonings, etc., that have a much higher than average negative impact on life expectancy (because people who die those deaths tend to be younger) and the social problems they are typically associated with. Note that all of these figures are already lower than in 1990, the last year of Soviet normality (more or less). The same trend can be seen for deaths from accidents. Now to be accurate these death rates are still very high by global standards: whereas Russia’s total numbers of deaths from “external causes” (suicides, homicides, accidents, etc.) was 134 / 100,000, thus dipping below the levels of 1990, it is still far from the 40 / 100,000 types of figures in countries like Australia. No-one doubts that there is still a lot of work to be done on the health and safety front.

Predictably, none of this gets mentioned in the Western media, which is still replete with tropes about the mass emigration of Russia’s middle classes (debunked here multiple times), non-existent population collapse, and citations of outdated CIA World Factbook figures which are cited in lieu of official Rosstat ones. To the contrary, the population has stabilized, and the “brain drain” is now a mere trickle (only 400 Russian R&D specialists emigrated abroad for an undefined amount of time in the first half of 2011, which is a drop in the ocean besides its population of 143 million). Meanwhile, they have missed the true demographic apocalypse that is occurring not in Russia itself, but in one of its neighbors, Latvia, long lauded as a pro-Western and economically liberal “Baltic tiger”: almost as many people are now leaving Latvia every year as leaving Russia. But Latvia’s population is 75 times lower!

S/O, vindicated

Three years ago, based on my own demographic models, I predicted that Russia’s demographic future will be either one of stabilization, or slow population growth. In late 2009, I wrote that even under undemanding assumptions, “the population size will remain basically stagnant, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023 before slowly slipping down to 138mn by 2050.” This was highly counter-consensus, even scandalous, at the time, given that the debate was dominated by the likes of Nick Eberstadt and most of the main demographics agencies believed a decline to the low 130 millions was likely by 2025. For instance, in the professionally titled Spring 09 article Drunken Nation, Dr. Eberstadt wrote: “UNPD projections for the year 2025 range from a high of about 136 million to a low of about 121 million… The Census Bureau’s projections for the Russian Federation’s population in 2025 are 128 million.”

Now the big demographics agencies are recognizing that things have fundamentally turned around. For instance, in its most recent 2011 World Population Data Sheet, the PRB’s Medium forecast for Russia’s population in 2025 is now 139.0 million. In the 2010 Revision of the World Population Prospects by the UN Population Division has Russia’s population falling to 139.0mn in 2025, with the High forecast being 144.5mn in 2025. Russian statistics agency Rosstat forecasts 140.9 million in 2025, the High version being 146.7 million (note that they still use the base population of 142.0 million for this estimate, not the 142.9 million revealed by the recent Census; in reality, once this is accounted for, their 2025 would logically be by a million bigger).

Whither now? I believe the current Low scenarios, envisaging a drop to the low 130 millions by 2025, have become very unlikely – they assume that many of the trends we see today, such as falling mortality, and net emigration, almost completely stall. In the light of the government’s campaign against excessive alcohol drinking – the primary cause of Russia’s high mortality rates – and the historical successes that tend to accompany such campaigns (e.g. Karelian Finland in the 1970′s and 1980′s), not to mention the more recent Baltic experience; as well as continued economic growth that will enable more resources to be diverted to healthcare and for consumers to pursue healthier lifestyle choices; means that life expectancy will continue rising relatively quickly. Meanwhile, as long as there remains a substantial income gap between Russia and the Caucasus and Central Asia, immigrants will continue to come. Some commentators have argued that fertility convergence in those regions will reduce the number of potential migrants to Russia in the years to come. Perhaps. On the other hand, as Moldova and the Baltic nations show, even being in demographic straits of their own does not necessarily lead to diminishing supplies of emigrants from economically-behind countries.

The above graph is a set of Low, Medium and High projections from Rosstat in 2000, with the High version (green) being a stabilization at 142.7 million people in 2011. As one can see, the mere fact that Russia’s population is at 142.9 million is a surprise to the upside as viewed from a decade ago. If things go well – the economy continues growing, mortality rates keep falling, etc. – then it is entirely possible that Russia’s population will follow today’s mainstream High projections (144-147 million) or even surpass 150 million (as in my original High projection) by 2025.

EDIT: This article has been translated into Russian at (Российская демография: развенчивая мифы).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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As we’re now approaching mid-2011, I suppose its time to give my traditional update on Russia’s demography. So here’s the lay-down:

1. In February, I predicted a population decline of c. 50,000 in 2010 (after a 23,000 rise in 2009). This was due to the excess deaths of the Great Russian Heatwave of 2010, and a substantial fall in immigration. The latest figures confirm it: population declined by 48,300. As of January 2011, it stood at 142,914,136 people (this is by the new Census estimates).

2. Three years ago, I predicted – going against 90%+ of “experts” – that the medium-term future of Russia’s demography is stagnation or small increase. In late 2009, I wrote that even under undemanding assumptions, “the population size will remain basically stagnant, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023 before slowly slipping down to 138mn by 2050.” To give an example, the 2008 World Population Prospects of the UN Population Division predicted Russia’s population would fall to 132.3mn in 2025 and 116.1mn in 2050. As of their 2010 Revision, Russia’s population is projected to be 139.0mn in 2025 and 126.2mn in 2050 (High: 144.5mn in 2025; 145.3mn in 2050). What a difference two years make! In any case, “official” predictions are now beginning to converge with my own (not to mention Rosstat’s).

2010 UN population projection for Russia.

2010 UN population projection for Russia.

In large part, the pessimism of the earlier projections had a lot to do with the fact that the “experts” were slow to react to real-life trends, such as the improving healthcare and rising confidence that began reversing Russia’s demographic decline. For instance, going back to that same 2008 UN Population Division report – I’m not even going to talk of professional doomers such as Nick Eberstadt – note that they assumed a TFR of 1.47 for 2010-15 and 1.53 for 2015-20 (when it was already 1.49 in 2008, and 1.54 in 2009), and a life expectancy of 67.9 for 2010-15 (when it was already at that point in 2008, rising to 68.7 in 2009 and 69.0 in 2010). Though its effect was pretty minor, their assumptions for infant mortality were truly hilarious: they predicted it would only drop to 7.3/1000 by 2045-50, whereas in fact it is already below that level at 7.1/1000 for Q1 2011.

3. Speaking of 2011, the outlook is mixed. Net immigration in the first quarter slightly increased from 52,000 in 2010 to 61,000 in 2011 (but below 2009). According to the latest data for January-April, births fell from 572,000 to 557,900 (-2.5%) but deaths fell from 679,000 to 658,700 (-3.4%). This carries a number of implications. First, is the fall in births a blip or a trend? Quite possibly, it’s now the latter. The effects of the big post-Soviet fertility fall-off are now being felt in rapidly decreasing numbers of women entering their childbearing years – in 2010, there were 1.68mn 17-year olds, 1.84mn 18-year olds, 2.23mn 20-year olds, and 2.56mn 22-year olds which means that there will be a growing downward pressure on birth rates (though to some extent this is dampened by the rising average age of motherhood). OTOH, the continuing fall in mortality is encouraging; in fact, it will in all likelihood – barring a repeat of last year’s apocalyptic drought with its 44,700 excess deaths – accelerate in summer due to the effects of a higher base. According to my back of the envelope projections, it is basically a coin flip as to whether Russia will see slightly positive or slightly negative population growth this year.

4. A roundup of demography news from the rest of the former USSR (use this post as reference). Reflecting its economic crisis, births fell and deaths increased in Belarus for Jan-Apr. In Ukraine for Jan-Mar, deaths fell slightly and births remained stagnant (after falling in 2010). Those pundits who keep focusing on Russia’s imminent demographic apocalypse may find better targets elsewhere. The recent Lithuania Census indicated that the Baltic country’s population declined by about 10% in the past decade. But even that’s normal news compared to Latvia…

In the wake of its economic crisis, Latvia has seen a faster collapse in its demographic indicators than even in the years following the Soviet Union. In the first four months of 2011, a quarter fewer Latvians were born relative to the same period in 2008. That year marked the post-Soviet peak of its TFR at 1.45 children per woman, meaning that it is now at around 1.1 children per woman. In the meantime, deaths only fell by 5%. As a result, the rate of natural decrease rose from 7,100 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2010, and may register a small rise again this year. And that’s not all. Net emigration rose from 4,700 in 2009 to 7,900 in 2010, and has already reached 4,400 as of this April. From this February, more than a thousand Latvians have been leaving their country each month.

5. Check out Russian Demographics – Something Stirring in the East by Claus Vistesen at demography.matters and related discussion.

6. The past two years have been good ones for censuses. India’s population rose to 1.21bn in 2011 (181mn increase since 2001), with a worsening in the child sex ratio to 109 boys per 100 girls and a rise in literacy from 65% to 74%.

China’s population rose to 1.34bn in 2010 (74mn increase since 2000), a less than expected increase that implies its fertility rate has shrank to about 1.4 children per woman in the last decade. Furthermore, the continually big child sex disparity – there are 118 boys to 100 girls – means that the effective fertility rate is even lower. Literacy is now practically universal at 96%, the share of the population with a college degree doubled to 8.5%, and there is now an even divide between rural and urban inhabitants.

The 2010 US Census had no surprises or matters of particular interest, you can read about it here.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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The preliminary results of the 2010 Census are out, showing that the population has fallen to 142.9 million. This compares to 145.2 million counted in the previous 2002 Census.

Most headlines have emphasized the falling population aspect of “Putin’s decade”. But the more interesting stuff is in the derivatives. According to state statistics agency Rosstat, the population in 2010 should have been at 141.9 million (after a period of rapid decline until 2007; a small fall in 2008; and stagnation in 2009-10).

However, the Census results indicate that Rosstat may have placed the population 1.0 million people lower than reality, probably by underestimating immigration.

Furthermore, adding in the tendency towards increasing life expectancy and higher fertility rates previously covered on this blog, I can confidently predict that the 2020 Census will show a population bigger than this year’s. Perhaps 145-147 million, as predicted in both Rosstat’s and my own higher scenarios.

Back to the results of this Census. The male-female ratio dropped slightly, due to the aging of the Russian population and the increasing sex disparity in 40 year old cohorts and older.

Regionally, the Central Federal District (+1.6%, mainly by dint of Moscow) and the South Caucasus (+6.3%) registered a rise in the population. The greatest population declines were seen in the Volga (-4.0%), Siberia (-4.0%) and the Fast East (-6.0%).

That is not because there are fewer births or more deaths in the eastern parts of the country – to the contrary, it has a younger population with higher fertility rates – but because of internal migration to the west.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.